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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Football

Domestic talent Bundesliga’s key to success
Ajai Masand, Hindustan Times
Frankfurt, April 04, 2013
First Published: 23:35 IST(4/4/2013)
Last Updated: 02:41 IST(5/4/2013)

At a time when topflight European clubs are spending a bomb on acquiring prized players, the German football league's mantra is to bank on homegrown talent.

Their fundamentals are simple: why spend mega-bucks when talent is in abundance and the youth programme run by the various clubs is a regular supply line, one which will never run dry in a country sold on soccer?

"Training a player is much more sustainable than buying one. And, of course, they have the local connect," said Eckart Gutschmidt a Bundesliga official at the league's headquarters here.

The Bundesliga's licensing system mandates that only clubs with a youth programme will qualify to be part of the league - both first and second division. The standards are set so high that while it may seem stifling for a country like India where no I-League clubs play on their own ground, this is what has made the Bundesliga one of the most competitive in the world. Many even put it even ahead of the English Premier League in terms of competitiveness, if not in terms of the money it rakes in.

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The workmanlike efficiency has come about thanks to the strict norms of the Bundesliga, which started a youth programme slightly over a decade ago. In 2002-03, the league was pumping in 48m euros into its youth academies, the amount was 103m euros last year.

Bundesliga clubs maintain 280 teams between the age-groups of 12 and 23 with over 5000 players in the youth sector while 275 out of the 525 players in the first division came from the academies.

No wonder then that the World Cup squad in 2010 had 19 players nurtured in the youth academies and the average age of the players in the Bundesliga fell in the past 10 years from 27 to 25. The Borussia Dortmund team that won the Bundesliga last year had an average age of 24.5.

While all over Europe, top-flight clubs burn holes in their pocket buying the player of their choice, Germany knows where to scout for their heroes.

The writer's trip has been sponsored by Neo Sports


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